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The Daily Tar Heel

Bowles wants no more tuition cuts for UNC

Asks legislators to spare UNC

In the last year, UNC-system President Erskine Bowles abolished 935 positions, cut his budget by $294 million and reduced administrative costs by 18 percent.

On Tuesday, he told state legislators he can’t go much further.

“We tried to be good partners, and we didn’t moan and groan,” he said. “And I won’t start now.”

Tuition by the numbers

-$1.2 billion: Predicted N.C. budget shortfall

-$52 million: AnticipatedUNC-system cut

-$34 million: UNC’s addition loss of revenue if tuition increase goes to the general fund

-$468 million: State budget cut last year

-$135 million: Amount taken from the UNC-system budget last year

Bowles spoke to the N.C. General Assembly’s joint appropriations education subcommittee Tuesday to make his case for the UNC system before the legislature convenes in May to address tuition.

The system cannot take any more cuts, and if it does, the quality of education provided — including course offerings, academic services and faculty retention — could be affected, Bowles said.

Legislators might stick with a tuition plan that would take more than $34 million generated by tuition increases and, rather than give it back to schools like in the past, put it toward the state budget gap.

That is on top of the proposed $52 million in cuts the system is already expecting for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“If they go above $52 million, it will have a dramatically detrimental effect on education and a dramatic effect on the economic future of North Carolina,” Bowles said.

If the system were to retain the legislative tuition increase, about 50 percent of the money would fund financial aid, which has been a major source of need for the schools.

Seventy-one percent of students applying to UNC are also applying for need-based aid, Bowles said.

“I see it in the faces of kids who come to the University,” he said. “You can literally see the fear about whether they’ll be able to afford to come back to college. The University hasn’t been exempt from these really tough times.”

The UNC-system Board of Governors is requesting that the legislature consider an alternative to its mandate for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which increased tuition by the lesser of $200 or 8 percent, and required that the revenue go to the state’s general fund, which can be spent on almost anything in the state budget.

The board and Bowles want that revenue to be given back to the campuses. The legislature will make no decisions until it convenes in May.

“We’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” said N.C. Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison. “We’re looking at a $1.2 billion shortfall this year. It’s hard to cut anything, but it’s got to come from somewhere.”

Bowles and other educators explained on Tuesday the dramatic cuts they have already made to meet the state’s budget needs.

Of the $468 million cut from the state budget last year, $135 million came from the UNC system’s budget — more than 20 percent of the cuts, although the system only receives about 13 percent of the state budget, Bowles said.

“We did more than our part,” Bowles said. “We did it because we were prepared and planned.”

Bowles and legislators pointed to UNC-Chapel Hill’s implementation of recommendations from the consulting firm Bain & Co. that encouraged the University to cut its growing administrative costs.

In the past year, the UNC system cut administrative costs by 18 percent while holding academic cuts to less than one half percent, a goal Bowles said he wants to continue.

“Systemwide, it can be done,” Rapp said. “Chapel Hill is a model we can use on every campus. It’s significant that it doesn’t cut academic services and keeps that a priority.”

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